#StayHomeSTEM: Curriculum Resources for Teaching about Coronavirus COVID-19

I’m writing from Seattle. Our region is currently experiencing the largest outbreak of coronavirus COVID-19 in the USA. Things are rapidly changing here, day by day, as we learn more about the virus and its transmission. Our hearts go out to the families who have experienced critical health issues and deaths. We’re being strongly encouraged to engage in “social distancing.” Some individual schools and districts are closing, the University of Washington has suspended in-person class meetings, and many large workplaces are encouraging non-essential employees to work remotely from home. And yes, the stores are sold out of hand sanitizer and toilet paper. Canned beans and pasta fly off the shelves as people prepare for possible 14-day quarantines at home if they find out they have been exposed to someone who tested positive for the virus.

Whether you teach in Seattle or further afield, coronavirus is on everyone’s mind. Particularly for science teachers, this presents an opportunity to incorporate contemporary, unfolding scientific phenomena into the classroom curriculum. Microbiology, infectious diseases, vaccine development, global health, and bioethics are all particularly relevant areas. Math teachers will also find connections, whether it is studying exponential growth or statistics.

For social studies teachers, relevant topics include: the ways that different countries are differently dealing with and experiencing outbreaks, health disparities and inequities, regional and global economic impacts, changing governmental policies, coordination between local/state/national/global agencies, racial bias, and impacts on personal freedom for the greater good. In addition, students could investigate other epidemics and pandemics throughout history, such as avian influenza, swine flu, Zika virus, Ebola, cholera, tuberculosis, bubonic plague, and more.

For all teachers and parents, we need to think about social stigma, racialized fear, and xenophobia in how we act and talk to the young people in our lives, and to think about what they are seeing online and through social media. Teaching Tolerance has a helpful article on this topic geared toward educators. The CDC has information on social stigma and resilience during this public health emergency, reminding us all to think carefully about our reactions to persons of Asian descent, people who have travelled recently, and emergency responders or healthcare professionals (first responder family here!).

I’ve gathered some teaching resources on some of these topics in the hopes that they help educators, parents, and students better understand and grapple with this rapidly unfolding pandemic. Caveat: I’m sharing resources I have found, but I have not carefully vetted all of them.

It is important to keep in mind that children, tweens, and teens may feel anxious by what they are hearing and seeing; the adults in their life can help them by sharing clear and age-appropriate information, teaching them strategies for staying healthy, and answering their questions. Check out this advice for talking to kids, this advice for talking to tweens and teens, and this short comic for kids of all ages about coronavirus COVID-19.

NSTA:

Ed Week:

BrainPop:

  • This coronavirus video (4 min) and lesson plan are great for elementary-aged learners. There is also a quiz and “challenge” activity to assess students’ understanding of coronaviruses and COVID-19. Some parts of the lesson include using BrainPop tools only available with a paid subscription, but adaptations are provided for “unplugged” versions.

NWABR:

Washington Global Health Alliance/STEM Global:

  • This 10th grade Global Health curriculum has lesson plans for U.S. History, General Chemistry, and Advanced Algebra teachers focused on the global health topics of influenza, cholera, malaria, and tuberculosis. Students might be interested in engaging with data and cases from other relevant examples like these, and teachers might consider ways to adapt these materials (or inspire new lessons) to the COVID-19 pandemic. Laughing Crow Curriculum helped with the development of this curriculum!
  • What types of careers work in the global health sector? Share this careers poster and these accompanying fact sheets with secondary students to help them understand the many kinds of expertise that come together to make up this interdisciplinary field. Laughing Crow Curriculum developed these resources!

GloGerm:

  • School nurses, parents, and others are focusing a lot of energy on teaching kids proper handwashing techniques. GloGerm Gel or Powder along with a UV-light is a great way to teach kids how to wash their hands (and shows them if they haven’t been doing a good enough job). There are some great lesson plans available that visually demonstrate disease transmission too. A quick Google search will turn up classroom activities using this cool product.

Additional teaching resources about coronavirus are available at this 3/9/2020 blog post. Stay safe out there! And stay tuned parents: we’ll be featuring at-home science learning activities for students who are staying home voluntarily or due to school closures during the COVID-19 outbreak. #StayHomeSTEM

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